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Old 04-02-2008, 08:13 AM   #1
Olympus
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Public Patent: new idea for DRM free yet trackable e-books

Another suggestion for publishing e-books.

Each buyer get's a personalised JPG showing the cover art an his/her purchase credentials. Similar to the current ISBN area - the coverart has a place to display your buying credentials in a 2D format. In the JPG is the text of the book "watermarked" (a technology that "hides" information in the unused bits of a picture).

The reading software uses the JPG as cover-art. When users starts reading the reading software extracts - on the fly - the text and keeps this in memory. Probably using a public/private key encription supplied by the PUBLISHER. Publishers should register a public/private key with the ISBN institute.

Should a user tamper with the JPG picture using Photoshop or Gimp then his books becomes unusable as the "hidden" bytes are incorrect. When he shares his "unaltered" copy then his "credentials" are shown on the JPG- cover.
Advanced piracy is not prevented but I accept that as a fact of life. Normal consumers just get all the advantages of a normal book without DRM, and can even share their books like in real life, but the reader is always reminded of the original purchaser by looking at the cover art that display's their registration credentials. It could/should be a automated service to insert the 2d credentials in the JPG, and hide the text in the JPEG from the ISBN-institute that currently issues the ISB Number ranges.

MobiPocket (current defacto standard) and the few readers currently available should be updated to perform this "trick" before e-books hit the mass market.
(I should "patent" this idea, but I prefer to donate this to the open source community)

Questions:
1: would you pass your copy of an e-book that is labeled with your credentials to pirates
2: what type of "credentials" would you allow a publisher to put on your e-cover
3: any suggestions ?

Last edited by Olympus; 04-02-2008 at 08:46 AM.
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Old 04-02-2008, 11:43 AM   #2
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Congratulations on starting a new thread with your idea before it became another Steve Jordan "new" idea for discussion! This isn't different from simply encrypting the entire file, however.

The concept though is a clever mix of encryption and social DRM, with the pros and cons of each.
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Old 04-02-2008, 11:56 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olympus View Post
Another suggestion for publishing e-books.

Each buyer get's a personalised JPG showing the cover art an his/her purchase credentials. Similar to the current ISBN area - the coverart has a place to display your buying credentials in a 2D format. In the JPG is the text of the book "watermarked" (a technology that "hides" information in the unused bits of a picture).
(disclaimer: some of this was said in the "other" thread)

Ok, if the file itself is not DRM'ed why not just remove the JPG. Then it would be like a normal text file, and your reader would just display it.

Once again, using Public/Key private key means the user needs a way to put the private key into thier device.

The ONLY way to POSSIBLE do DRM properly is to use Public/Private key encrypt, but not provide a way for a user to embed the private key into the device. It would need to be either:

1. Embedded into the ROM of the device with technology like IronKey uses where there is no way to get to it. So, manufacturers would need to request the private key for each user before ordering... this would send the device prices much higher. It would also be hard to gift the device or sell it.

2. Use a hardware "dongle" like an IronKey or SIM card that was hack proof. This dongle would need to be inserted into the device in order to read/decrypt the file. This "dongle" could be an identity device and be more universal than just being used for eBook Readers of course. But, there would have to be some agreed apon standard (USB should work).

Still, method two above while workable with NOT stop piracy. It will only make it harder for people that legitamately bought there ebooks to read them.

BOb

(OK This is my last response to any type of DRM/Piracy idea/issue type threads. I "try" to promise.)
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Old 04-02-2008, 11:56 AM   #4
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That's a very creative idea, Olympus. I like it. Kind of a combination of social DRM and being really clever with encryption.

Let me see if I understand a few details:
  • The text, which is encoded into the "cover art" picture can be decrypted by anyone using the "public key" analog from the publisher.
  • The cover art includes some identifier linking the book to the original buyer (i.e. name or some such).
  • The text can't be decoded if the "cover art" is monkeyed with via an image editor, so the social DRM can't be changed without trashing the text.

Am I following correctly?

Assuming for the moment that I am, the questions I see are:
How much data can this "cover art" hold? Will it accommodate full books? My instinct is that it would, since digital texts are so "small," especially if a "pure text" save schema (i.e. HTML, etc.) were used.

Couldn't someone take the "public key," use it to decode the text and separate it from the image and pass that around? I'm thinking they could, but there we'd be depending on the premise that most people (and honest people) will accept DRM if it isn't too intrusive and restrictive. A premise I happen to think is more correct than not.

I think this notion has some potential. It would allow folks to "lend" books. It would encourage them to be very careful of who they lend them to, as well, which is probably a good idea. I'm not sure about re-selling them, but if they're cheap enough, folks stop caring about that so much. It would allow people to give books away, but again, they'd be careful of who they gave them to. And it would make it easy for them to pass into the Public Domain once that time limit passed.

A very interesting notion, indeed.
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Old 04-02-2008, 12:35 PM   #5
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I agree with NatCh's comments in general but am more skeptical that there is sufficient space in a typical image to "hide" a full book's text, especially since some books include additional images.

Also, JPEG (in general) is a lossy compression technique. There is one version that is not lossy but that is typically not used for most JPEG images and is definitely not compressed as small as the lossy ones. With images the lossyness may not be noticeable but it probably would with the text. However there are lossless image formats that could be used, e.g. GIF, TIFF.

In addition, an image file can be "artificially" increased in size with no apparent change to the image. I actually once (long ago when I could still spell C) wrote a C program that would add text to an image file in this manner. The "encryption" was along the line of "The Purloined Letter", i.e. it was really not encrypted if you knew where & how to look for it. (I was dealing with relatively ignorant & non curious people, so it worked fine to hid the "message" from them.) However any computer literate, curious person would have quickly discovered what was going on. That led me to use the UNIX "crypt" command. It is nice, in that if you attempt to unencrypt using it and use the wrong key, what you achieved was to double encrypt it.

It was all fun & games during my youth. Now it would just be work.
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Old 04-02-2008, 01:10 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olympus View Post
Advanced piracy is not prevented but I accept that as a fact of life.
One of the other facts about advanced piracy is that advanced pirates very frequently give away their tools making it easy for people who aren't even very technical to decrypt protected content. These tools are typically not hard to find.

Another issue is that it only takes one person to put a book up on a file sharing site and thousands of people can download it for free. While the average person may not strip the DRM off their files and put them online, the question for the publishers is more whether the average person, or enough people, will download a book rather than pay for it if it's easy enough and they're unlikely to get caught. You don't need thousands of individuals to strip the DRM off their books. You just need one.

So while it's great that a DRM like this wouldn't be onerous to all the honest people that paid for their content, it wouldn't really stop illegal file sharing. It probably wouldn't even be much of a speed bump which just makes it an added expense with no real benefit. The current restrictive DRM systems don't, either. In my personal opinion, the best chances we have are with either enforcement efforts against uploaders or coming up with alternative ways for people to be compensated.
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Old 04-02-2008, 02:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slayda View Post
I agree with NatCh's comments in general but am more skeptical that there is sufficient space in a typical image to "hide" a full book's text, especially since some books include additional images.

Also, JPEG (in general) is a lossy compression technique. There is one version that is not lossy but that is typically not used for most JPEG images and is definitely not compressed as small as the lossy ones. With images the lossyness may not be noticeable but it probably would with the text. However there are lossless image formats that could be used, e.g. GIF, TIFF.


It was all fun & games during my youth. Now it would just be work.
TIFF has no compression at all but supports several compression themes including GIF as an option. PNG is a non-lossy compression you might have been thinking of.

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Old 04-02-2008, 02:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pilotbob View Post
Once again, using Public/Key private key means the user needs a way to put the private key into thier device.

The ONLY way to POSSIBLE do DRM properly is to use Public/Private key encrypt, but not provide a way for a user to embed the private key into the device. It would need to be either:

1. Embedded into the ROM of the device with technology like IronKey uses where there is no way to get to it. So, manufacturers would need to request the private key for each user before ordering... this would send the device prices much higher. It would also be hard to gift the device or sell it.
Giving this some additional thoughts during my daily commute:
could the hash of the JPG be used together with a key (i'm getting confused now) from the buyer/publisher so that the JPG is the key and that the text and the JPG can not be used individually.

However I admit: if something can be encoded it can be decoded thus is available for piracy.
The DVD-screeners for the Oscars contain an individually generated watermark, but even those are available for illegal downloading.
As Tim O'Reilly famously pointed out in a 2002 essay on publishing lesson 4: "And overall, as a book publisher who also makes many of our books available in electronic form, we rate the piracy problem as somewhere below shoplifting as a tax on our revenues."
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Old 04-02-2008, 02:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaleDe View Post
TIFF has no compression at all but supports several compression themes including GIF as an option. PNG is a non-lossy compression you might have been thinking of.

Dale
No I was thinking TIFF. I realize it does not compress but more importantly, it is not lossy.
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Old 04-02-2008, 02:36 PM   #10
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done some searching and this "hiding a file in an other file" is called steganography
and so far there are plenty programs available to do this.
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Old 04-02-2008, 02:46 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh View Post
That's a very creative idea, Olympus. I like it. Kind of a combination of social DRM and being really clever with encryption.

Let me see if I understand a few details:
  • The text, which is encoded into the "cover art" picture can be decrypted by anyone using the "public key" analog from the publisher.
  • The cover art includes some identifier linking the book to the original buyer (i.e. name or some such).
  • The text can't be decoded if the "cover art" is monkeyed with via an image editor, so the social DRM can't be changed without trashing the text.

Am I following correctly?

Assuming for the moment that I am, the questions I see are:
How much data can this "cover art" hold? Will it accommodate full books? My instinct is that it would, since digital texts are so "small," especially if a "pure text" save schema (i.e. HTML, etc.) were used.

Couldn't someone take the "public key," use it to decode the text and separate it from the image and pass that around? I'm thinking they could, but there we'd be depending on the premise that most people (and honest people) will accept DRM if it isn't too intrusive and restrictive. A premise I happen to think is more correct than not.

I think this notion has some potential. It would allow folks to "lend" books. It would encourage them to be very careful of who they lend them to, as well, which is probably a good idea. I'm not sure about re-selling them, but if they're cheap enough, folks stop caring about that so much. It would allow people to give books away, but again, they'd be careful of who they gave them to. And it would make it easy for them to pass into the Public Domain once that time limit passed.

A very interesting notion, indeed.
Thanks for the support
I still have to solve the puzzle: how to keep the decrypted "text" dependend on the particular JPG.

I even had my own piracy thoughts: what prevents me from OCRing the e-ink screen as it "automatically" flips the pages, and the submit the OCR result to the "community" .... SIGH - When people are scanning physical books to get e-content, nothing will stop them ...
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Old 04-03-2008, 04:35 PM   #12
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I don't think OCRing the e-ink screen will be necessary. There will be software decrypting the data to turn it into readable text; if this software can run on your reader, it can be made to run as a standalone program as well.
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Old 04-04-2008, 10:20 AM   #13
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One point I would like to make..... the goal of this type of DRM should be to pacify publishers to the point that they would consider using it as opposed to current methods. Will it "stop" piracy of ebooks? No. Does the current DRM system? No.

But, if this method makes sense to the publishers (placate their fears about piracy), than I am all for it as a interim step to removing all DRM.
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Old 04-04-2008, 11:02 AM   #14
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IMHO All this DRM will fail. Even if there is the perfect DRM technique, it will only affect you to do a one time analog/digital conversation on audio, or a onetime OCR on books.

Put the e-reader head on a scanner, have a software pressing "next page" for you, and when OCR became good enough to locate letters, and recreate a pdf that much fits the original, your are done.

In worst case, you have soon a free image pdf available (okay non-searchable, and larger) but thats it.

The scanner is only the worst scenario of the perfect DRM tech, otherwise speaking encryption-wise you always have the problem, that you have to give "the foe" a decryption device, so he can actually see/hear it.

Last edited by axel77; 04-04-2008 at 11:06 AM.
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